Sox step up to the plate

MIKE RUTSEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:22 AM ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Yesterday, the fat lady was singing.

But the game went on regardless.

Moments after a rotund and beefy female sang both national anthems at the lovely City of Palms Park, the Boston Red Sox players threatened to boycott the spring training game with the Blue Jays over a dispute with the Players' Association and Major League Baseball.

The game eventually would be played, but not before the players won the day.

The dispute arose when the Boston players became aware that the Red Sox coaches and support personnel would not get any bonus money that the players were to receive -- a minimum of $40,000 US -- for making a trip to Japan to play two exhibition games against Japanese teams and two regular-season games against the Oakland A's.

The Red Sox were scheduled to begin their journey to Japan immediately following yesterday's game.

The players said they would not travel to Japan unless their demands were met.

"They're part of the team and should receive the same compensation," Boston pitcher Curt Schilling said of the coaches and support staff before the game.

"They receive the same share as the players in the World Series."

Moments after the game was scheduled to start, 12:05 p.m., the Red Sox public relations department announced that if a resolution wasn't reached by 12:30, they would not play the game and, as a bone to the fans, the players would line both sides of the stadium and sign autographs.

That deadline came and went.

Boston right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was supposed to make yesterday's start, instead was whisked to their minor-league camp to pitch in a minor-league game.

But at 12:51 p.m., the announcement came there would be peace in our time and the game would start at 1:10 p.m.

Assurances, apparently, were made to the players that one and all would be compensated.

Solidarity forever.

Who would have thought that so many ultra-rich, right-wing Republicans could band together for their brothers, or at least the hired help?

What's next, green cards for the illegals mowing their lawns?

You get a warm and fuzzy feeling over the fact that 25 players who will earn a combined $146 million this season alone, would stand united over $500,000 worth of chump change, not for them, but for others.

Kevin Youkilis, the Red Sox players' rep, said it was an issue of principle and that is what the players on Boston are all about.

"We've got guys that are willing to fight," Youkilis said. "The coaches are a huge part of our success. It's something as players that we felt strongly about."

Youkilis said the Players' Association seemed more interested in the games in Japan than their stand.

"In a conference call to the Players' Association they believed in what we were fighting for but said 'You've got to be smarter in this and make that trip to Japan,' " he said.

That's really nice.

What the players ultimately got for their coaches and support staff, Youkilis did not say.

"I don't know the minimum amount they'll get," he said. "But we have something in place and they'll get more than they were getting before. Before it wasn't right. Now, there's a good amount in place for them."

A big broker in the standoff was the Red Sox club.

"The Red Sox stepped up and helped with the negotiations," Youkilis said. "The club is working on getting money in the hands to where it is needed."

Youkilis, who blamed the mixup on "bad communications" said that baseball is the ultimate winner.

"Everybody got back on the same page and realized what the main goal was and that is to play baseball," he said.

In Japan, it's "Play ball!"


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